We’re facing the biggest income squeeze in a generation as the rising cost of living becomes a heavy burden to carry. Many families will begin to see a decline in living standards as their budgets erode, leaving them teetering on the edge of a poverty precipice.
A Rotherham-based charity is helping to stabilise residents at risk of spiralling into financial hardship by offering free services, advice and guidance to tackle the cost of living crisis.
Rotherham Federation, aka RotherFed, has been harnessing the power of communities for 15 years, giving the people of Rotherham a voice to grow and develop the area they live in.
Last year, they launched two new projects to support people feeling the squeeze from rising bills – and that was before the likes of the energy cap, fuel costs, inflation, water rates, national insurance contributions, and council tax bills had risen dramatically.
Whether you’re in paid employment, are retired, are a student, or in receipt of benefits, no matter our income everyone is having to tighten the purse strings. RotherFed is there to listen and help you access the free support you need to make ends meet.
Making Our Money Go Further
This is a three-year project aimed at changing the way communities think and talk about managing money. Working in partnership with Rotherham Citizens Advice, the free service is lottery funded and advises people in Rotherham how to cut their bills without cutting back.
We’re all paying considerably more for necessities. But in Yorkshire, over 40 percent of families are living below the minimum income standard. If you’re worried about affording the basics, are struggling to pay all your bills, or would like to know how to budget, the Making Our Money Go Further project is there to help.
The project is multi-faceted, providing practical tools needed to deal with money worries. RotherFed staff together with staff and volunteers at Rotherham Citizens Advice are on-hand to help you reduce expenditure, increase income and renegotiate outgoings.
This might be speaking to a Citizens Advice advisor about any government benefits you’re eligible for or if claiming benefits means you qualify for discounts on your council tax, water rates or broadband contracts. Around £16 billion in benefits goes unclaimed each year, so you could be missing out on money you’re entitled to.
Have you ever looked at your outgoings to see if you could pay less for the same things? The RotherFed team can empower you to save money on childcare bills through government initiatives like tax-free childcare, recycle children’s school uniforms at a uniform drive, cancel unused subscriptions, or haggle with your broadband and TV provider to get a better deal.
Maybe you’d benefit from some budgeting advice. There are now many apps available that can be linked to your bank account so you can see exactly which bills are rising and where you might be able to cut back.
With rising food prices, the total at the till seems to be more each week – even after resisting the luxury items. Most supermarkets have their own budget or saver ranges, as well as wonky fruit and veg. The packaging might be plain and simple, but the quality and taste is not much different to premium ranges. The RotherFed team are big advocates for saving on your shopping and regularly offer taste tests to see if you can taste the difference with your mouth and not your eyes when products are out of the packaging.
Simple things like checking the cupboards for what you don’t need, making list of meal ideas before you go, or doing your food shopping online to reduce impulse buys can help save money each week. As too can growing your own fresh produce at your local allotment.
The RotherFed team also have access to a cookbook compiled by Thurcroft woman Kathryn Bliss on how to feed a family of four for less than £2. The cheap and nutritious meals have been costed per specific ingredient, such as how much one onion or a tablespoon of tomato puree costs. Recipes include bangers at mash for 72p, mushroom risotto for £1.28, or peach crumble for 47p.
The project is also working with services such as Rotherham Foodbank and the social supermarket initiative. Service users can tap into expert advice from RotherFed and Citizens Advice for help with debt and budgeting to help get them back on track.
And finally, an important part of the project is raising awareness about fast-fix finances, such as loan sharks, investments scams, and buy now pay later agreements.
The Making Our Money Go Further team works with individuals across Rotherham but is also able to deliver sessions at grassroots community groups.
More information about the project can be found here
Energy Know How
With the energy market in crisis, there are no cheap deals and the only way to save money is to use less. This two-year project supports Rotherham residents to reduce their energy use and costs while improving knowledge and awareness about energy efficiency.
It is funded by the Energy Redress Scheme, where money taken from energy firms who breach Ofgem’s rules is redistributed to help people who are most at risk from cold homes and high energy bills.
Of all the recent price rises, the energy bill increase is by far the largest. The energy price cap rose by more than 50 percent on April 1st, with many residents seeing an average increase of £700 on their annual bill. As oil and gas prices continue to surge, there are fears the energy price cap could rise even further in October.
But what does this all mean to consumers? The Energy Know How team can help you understand your energy bills and price caps if you bring a copy along to one of their drop-in sessions.
If you are unable to pay the increased energy bill, your provider has a duty of care and should have hardship funds or signpost you to government support, such as the Warm Home Discount for low income households, or annual winter fuel payments for those born before 26th September 1955.
There is also free help available to assess your home for energy saving measures. The Energy Know How team is working with Groundwork’s Green Doctors to look at how you can improve your home’s energy efficiency. This might be simple solutions to tackle issues like heat loss by using reflector sheets behind radiators on external walls, installing draft excluders to doors, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, or looking at how to prevent damp and mould.
The team can also give you tips on how to save money by being consciously aware of your energy usage. For example, you could save around £55 a year by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode, or £65 a year by turning the thermostat down one degree.
As well as remote support over the phone or email, the Energy Know How team run regular drop-in sessions. Contact the Energy Know How team or visit their Facebook page for up-to-date details of when and where their face-to-face sessions will be.
More information about the project can be found here.